Friday, January 21, 2022

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

How do you grow as a writer when you don’t have the time or money to take classes?

You enter writing contests.

I considered this idea over the summer, but the contests I saw, with their rules and entry fees, seemed so….professional, even the ones limited to authors who had never been published.  I was overwhelmed.  And stuck.

Then I saw the post in our village’s performing arts Facebook group last fall.  An arts commission in a neighboring town was seeking entries for their annual short story contest.  Each year they picked a theme, and this one was “Weather.”

It was fate.  In sixth grade, The Weather Channel was added to our cable system.  I was hooked, watching hour after hour of forecasts from around the world.  The weather became such an obsession that until my senior year in college, I wanted to become a meteorologist.  Plus, the contest was local, community-based, and fairly open in terms of rules, perfect for a beginner just trying to get her feet wet.  I had to enter.

Perhaps even win some prize money.

Writing is best when the focus is on the process of creating, rather than the end result, so I put the idea of prizes and winning out of my head and got to work.   Besides, if I didn’t win a prize, I could always publish my entry on my blog.  I felt like I couldn’t lose as I started to brainstorm about times when my life was affected by the weather.  I remembered an encounter I had during my days as a road warrior consultant, and started to think, “what if…”  The story flew out of me, and I spent the next three weeks writing and revising, honing my craft.

The night before the deadline, I read through the final draft and was proud of my efforts.  I filled out the paperwork and submitted my very first writing contest entry.

I ended up winning first place.

Award Winning!  With the prize and publication.

Not bad for my first short story contest.

It won’t be my last, either.

Here’s the link so you can read my story, “Truck Stop.”

 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

The Three D’s

Remember two years ago, when I said the 20s were going to roar? 

Well, I didn’t mean a little virus was going to roar over us.  It’s been…quite a year.  No, quite a couple of years.

I love to spend New Years’ Day reflecting on the past year—and planning the next.  As I said in Bill’s This Time Next Year challenge, the lockdowns and furloughs and protocols have worn me down, and now, I am in the worst shape of my life, physically and mentally, since college.  Everything has fallen apart, and I feel completely broken.  And I am far from alone.

Despite all of the awful, I learned some very valuable lessons in 2021.  In February, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, finally understanding how my brain works.  I realized that all the time I have spent escaping into a dreamland was exactly what prevented me from chasing my dreams.  I wasn’t only using my dreams as an escape—I was using “self care” as an excuse to avoid the long, difficult pathway towards success. 

In these two years of ‘rona, I had forgotten what it was going to take….to live the life of my dreams.

Clearly, I need a reboot, and it starts with developing three qualities that all start with the letter D:

Determination.  Dedication.  Discipline.

Last year, I talked about the Grind, how to keep going when you’re tired or challenged or never believe you will succeed.  I had three goals, and while #blogsandcoffee has been a great success, I struggled to create a daily routine.  (Don’t even ask about the English accent.  I decided to start learning French instead.) 

The reason I failed at creating a daily routine—was that I wasn’t determined enough to be dedicated enough to have the discipline to make it happen.  I chose the instant gratification of dreams and indulgences, rather than working through the challenges from juggling so many balls in the air.

Did you know that people with OCPD struggle with multitasking?  Um, yeah.  I probably also need to learn how to say “no” more often….

Now, there are a lot of people reading this and thinking, “um, Erin, you are the most disciplined, dedicated person I know.  I mean, in high school/college/work/running you are so able to get it done.”

Well, I am…when it’s simple, like training for a marathon, or has triggered my compulsions, like writing this blog post, but once things get complicated, I can’t handle all that’s being thrown at me.  Like what we have to manage as an adult—work, home, finances, health, leisure—add in the stresses of covid, and I have lost my way. 

(I’m also really, really good at hiding my struggles.)

To succeed at this endeavor, I have to start simple, with one project I know I can do if I am determined, I am dedicated, and I am disciplined.  I need to appreciate the baby steps it will take to complete this project and do them, even when I’m tired or anxious or had a bad day.  It will be like filling a rain barrel with an eyedropper, so I have to use these three D’s to stay on track, progressing towards completion.

Once I have reached my goal with that first project, I repeat the process with another project, then another, and another, building my determination, my dedication, and my discipline with each iteration, empowering me to tackle increasingly difficult projects.

If I master these three D’s, perhaps I will have a daily routine by the end of the year, the first step towards the life of my dreams.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

This Time Next Year

The only part of the holidays I love is the change of the year.  Having a slower time to reflect on the accomplishments of the past year and set goals (never resolutions) for the new year is probably my favorite holiday tradition.  Those of you regular readers know I start the year with a blog post, and last year, one of my goals was to create a place to read and support other bloggers.  I launched #blogsandcoffee on January 1st, and after only a year, I’ve made some great connections as other bloggers have used the hashtag to promote their blogs.  (Yes, I read every blog post I promote!)  One of my “regulars” is Bill from A Silly Place, who tagged me here.  His Sunday roundup blog is a must-read, and usually I make an extra-large cup of coffee so I can read what he’s found.  Thank you, Bill, for your tag—and your positive contribution to the Twitter blogging community.

Rules, rules rules

Because these things always come with rules:

  • Thank the person who tagged you.
  • Write your goals for next year.
  • Write how you’re going to achieve these goals.
  • Tag at least five blogger friends.
  • This last one is optional, but in 365 days, write a post about whether or not you’ve been successful!

At this time next year…

If I wanted to condense my goals into one word, it would be stability.

Like many people, I was completely unprepared for a global pandemic of lockdowns and furloughs.  Ever since the world shut down back in March of 2020, I’ve felt like I’m stuck on a tilt-a-whirl, struggling to hold on against the twists and turns, the ups and downs—the uncertainty—that filled every day.

(I hate spinning rides.  I’ve lived 15 minutes from Great America for years, but haven’t visited it since 1995.)

The closest I've gotten to being inside the park...

As the days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, and months turned to years, the whipping and the spinning had so filled my brain that even the simplest of tasks was a challenge.  My life was spinning out of control, fighting to keep it from falling completely off the rails….and lost. 

I need to find the lever, stop the ride, clear my head.  Stand on terra firma and feel normal again.

At this time next year, I see myself following a daily, regular routine.  The tasks I need to do to stay on top of things have become habits, giving my days an easy flow.  I go to bed feeling accomplished, confident that the next day will be successful, and wake up feeling rested and energized, my batteries recharged.  I have balance in my life, calming my mind, giving me the stability to work on the bigger projects, get my life together, and chase my dreams.

The details of how I’m going to do it…..will the subject of my New Years’ Day post.  (Hint:  it has to do with the letter “D.”)

Tag!  You’re it!

Rethink Entrepreneur

Tangela Williams-Spann

Amber

Headphones Thoughts

Aneesha Shewani

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Deer Hunter

Nigel stared at the woman walking along the path.  He needed to cross the path to get to some good eats for lunch, but there was a human in the way.

His mother had taught him to be afraid of humans, that they carried the booming rods that killed many of his family, but this woman was taking forever, meandering along, staring at the thing she was holding, not even noticing him.  So many people on the path were like this woman, oblivious to these things in their hands.  Sometimes the humans talked to the things.  Sometimes the things made noises.  Sometimes the humans held them up to the sky and then put them back in their hand.

Nigel was hungry, and getting angry as the woman took forever to cross his path.  He decided it was time to push her along.  He charged, and as he got to her, she looked up, saw the deer, and started to run away, like he had done so many times when he had been surprised by a human.  He smiled and charged.

Her two legs were no match for his four, so it only took a couple of pushes of his huge rack of antlers until she collapsed, dead.  As he returned to his mission for lunch, a wave of power surged over him, the power of someone who had no fear.  He was determined to rule over the humans, and excitedly thought about his next kill.

The trail made for easy targets.  Nobody suspected the buck in the brush, watching and plotting for his next victim.  Never groups, never ones on those speeding by on those machines with the two circles, and never anyone bigger than him.  Usually, it was women, walking by themselves, the slower the better. 

While the bodies piled up, the humans were stumped.  Women, walking alone on the trail, killed by being beaten to death in the middle of the day.  There were none of the usual clues or patterns the humans needed to solve the mystery, and soon, the killings became routine.

Nigel would spot his victim and charge until they were on the ground, lifeless, then would go about his business.  When the body would be discovered by another human, Nigel would flee, pretending to be afraid of the flashing lights, the sirens, the flow of people in and out, the yellow streamers. 

Sometimes he would go over to where the big boxes with trees on top were parked, listening to the humans chatter into sticks while facing other humans with boxes on their shoulders and snaking cords everywhere.  They would gab on about the “Millennium Trail Killer,” whose motive remained a mystery as the victims grew.

Eventually, it became harder for Nigel to find victims as the humans stopped walking the trail alone.  His bloodlust unsatiated, he wandered around until he found another great trail to catch victims, even if it meant crossing those big, hard paths with the fast-moving boxes that sometimes killed deer.  Bah, he was Nigel, the Millennium Trail Killer.  Nothing could stop him…. 

One afternoon, he spotted the perfect human, and charged him to death.  High on the thrill, Nigel started the long journey home, not realizing how late it had gotten.

*****

“Another body on a new trail.  The Millennium Trail Killer must have moved.”  Jane said to Mark, her cameraman.  They were headed up to the newest crime scene for the evening news.

“Or a copycat.”  Mark replied. 

“A copycat of the perfect crime?” Jane looked at Mark as he drove.  “Doubtful.”

They rounded a curve and felt the unmistakable thud of hitting something.  Mark pulled over, getting out of the news truck to investigate.  He shouted to Jane.

“Ugh, I have to call it in.  We hit a deer.”



Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Encouraging Blogger Award

I was so honored to be nominated for the Encouraging Blogger Award by Headphonesthoughts.  Every week, Deborah posts a “Thought of the Week” that always inspires me to do my best.  If you want to be encouraged, Headphonesthoughts is one of the best places to start.  The Encouraging Blogger Award was created by Lisa Mitchell of Fluxing Well with the ‘purpose to recognize bloggers who bring encouragement’ with their blogs.

The Rules

The Encouraging Blogger Award was created to recognize any blogger who encourages others with his or her posts. Bloggers may encourage others to travel, try new things, have a positive mindset, or overcome adversity, for example. An encouraging blog may encourage other bloggers or give business tips. Many blogs are encouraging and we don’t even realize it. Bloggers nominate fellow bloggers for this award, and nominees write a post answering a few questions. After that, the nominee nominates other bloggers.

  • When and why did you start blogging?

I started blogging on MySpace about 15 years ago, when I was a traveling consultant spending 75% of the year on the road.  It was a way to pass the time.  My current iteration started when I decided to run the six major marathons in 10 years, hence “6 in 10.”

  • What is your blog about?

My blog started as a running blog to keep me accountable on my marathon training, but has morphed into surviving a global pandemic while coping with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder.  Writing became my therapy, my connection to the outside world.  I believe the power of our own uniqueness, and I’m trying to use my blog to encourage others to embrace theirs.  There is too much of a demand for conformity, especially in a country founded on freedom and choice.

  • What is one piece of advice you would give to encourage new bloggers?

Find your own voice, what makes you exceptional.  It will make you stand out in the endless myriad of blogs.

  • Which is your favorite time-saving blogging tip or scheduling tool?

Use your Notes feature on your phone to jot down ideas if you aren’t in a position to write.  I’ve always got a half-dozen or so ideas floating through my mind, so I always have something to write about.

  • What are your future goals for your blog?

It’s not a blog goal, per se, but to restructure my life so I have more time to create.  I’m just juggling too many things right now to post the amount of content I have amassing in my head.  It would also be nice to grow in readership and see my posts make the world a better place.

I nominate…

Tangela Williams-Spann

The Winter of My Discontent

Unwanted Life

Ruthiee Loves Glamour

Lose Weight With Ang